They have the veteran players who know their way around the junior hockey rinks.
But the Soo Thunderbirds have been getting major contributions from a number of rookie players as well.
For starters, the first-place Thunderbirds — who take a record of 18-2-2 into Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League play this week — feature 1998 birth-year forward Nic Sicoly, who is third on the team in scoring with 12 goals, 13 assists, 25 points.
Sicoly, who was a fourth-round pick of the Guelph Storm at the 2014 Ontario Hockey League draft, is one of the youngest players on the Thunderbirds.
“He sure doesn’t play like a 16-year old rookie,” Thunderbirds general manager Kevin Cain has said of Sicoly, who is ticketed to play in the OHL for Guelph next season.
Then there are two 1997 birth-year players on the Thunderbirds who were bypassed at the OHL draft when first eligible for selection in 2013.
Pint-sized forward Matt Caruso has played in only 16 of the Thunderbirds 22 games but has made good use of his ice time with 5 goals, 8 assists, 13 points.
“Love the kid,” Cain said of Caruso. “Don’t let his size fool you. Matty is a tough kid and he plays way bigger than he is.”
Over to an up-and-coming goalie, that would be Mario Culina of the Thunderbirds.
The rookie puckstopper is playing like a true no. 1 goalie with a 10-2 record, 2.01 goals against average and .925 save percentage.
Culina’s 10 wins are tops among OHL goalies.
“He’s going places,” Cain said of the slender 6-foot-2, 170 pound Culina. “There are scouts calling me about Mario every day.”